For my birthday, my son Jacob and I went to the Jewish Museum in New York City to see an extraordinary exhibit on the award-winning children’s book author and illustrator, Ezra Jack Keats. He was born in 1916 and named Jacob Ezra Katz , to impoverished parents of Eastern European Jewish descent. Primarily self-taught, he drew upon memories of growing up in East New York, one of the most deprived neighborhoods in the city. Yet his work reflects the universal thoughts and feelings of children. The exhibit was magical, providing a wonderful, up close and personal view of the artists’ inspiration, including his thinking behind his collage illustrations. So simple, yet incredibly profound. My favorite Keats book was Whistle For Willie, the story of a boy who so desperately wanted to be able to whistle. I used to read it again and again to my boys, Jacob and Benjamin, at bedtime. We also had the Weston Woods video, which is beautiful and so touching. As we walked through each room of the exhibit, my son Jacob, who is now 18, said that seeing these images made him remember the books and the times we shared together, that Keats’ books told stories about real kids’ experiences that had an indelible influence.
Did you or do you read Ezra Jack Keats books to your children? If so, what did/do they mean to you?